Cyberbullying at Consolata School under DCI probe
Kinyuru Munuhe and Chebet Korir
Child Protection Unit (CPU) officers attached to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations have launched investigations at Consolata School, Nairobi, following a vulgar viral video posted by a pupil.
Yesterday, the school’s deputy head teacher and senior management officials were holed up in a day-long closed-door meeting with investigators seeking to establish the video’s motivation and possible external online influence at the school.
The video clip, featuring a class seven boy, went viral on Sunday and elicited sharp reactions from Kenyans, with most blaming it on poor parenting.
People Daily established the 12-year-old boy did not attend school yesterday morning but was ordered to report in the afternoon accompanied by his parents or guardians.
The girl he allegedly targeted in the selfie-video relayed through his Instagram account was also not in school.
“Our officers are there. We want to know how a young boy came to know about gayism. There might be a case of cyber bullying within the school,” a top detective said.
In a follow-up video released through the same social media account yesterday, the boy sought forgiveness over what he termed “overreacting”.
He denied owning a firearm after threatening to shoot the girl on the forehead.
“I am just a child, I don’t own a gun,” he is captured saying in the footage.
The investigators are keen to interview the parents or guardians in a bid to understand the boy’s social interactions and temperament.
“The principal is not in school but the deputy has been in a meeting since morning. You can’t talk to her since the meeting might take long,” a receptionist at the school said.
The CPU is a specialised police wing within the Anti-Human Trafficking Child Protection Unit of the DCI dedicated to human trafficking and child exploitation issues.
The boy’s video has caused outrage and brought to the fore the emotive debate on the use of social media by children, cyber-bullying and parenting in a digital era.
In the video, the boy accuses a girl in the school of labelling him gay and warned that he would take drastic action against her.
Using unprintable epithets, the boy who closed the account hours later, goes on a tirade accusing the girl of bullying him for no reason.
“I’m dangerous and will shoot you, I am coming for your head,” the boy who boasts more than 1,200 Instagram followers says.
He later apologised to the “public” for his outburst, acknowledging that his video had gone viral, but there was nothing he could do about it and hoped Kenyans would forgive him.
The girl’s father, in a WhatsApp post, said the boy needs love, guidance and therapy and offered to mentor him through a group he had established at the school – Children Mentorship Parents Group.
“My first reaction was to ask what it was all about from Nikita. Next it was to pray for the boy who is crying out for help. He needs a lot of help.
Next is to pray for the parents. And then see what next on Monday (yesterday) while taking his threats very seriously,” he said.
Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko termed the incident cyber bullying.
“This boy needs a lot of help. He’s struggling . . . More than meets the eye. Young man your apology is accepted, next time, when apologising, don’t use the word ‘but’.
Fellow Kenyans let’s say No to cyber bullying, this kid needs love, guidance and counselling,” said Sonko on his Facebook page.
Suba North MP Millie Odhiambo pleaded with Consolata School to not suspend the boy.
“For the child’s sake please do not share. Consolata School, please do not suspend him despite pressure from parents. He is a child in need of care and protection under the Children’s Act.
Get him and the alleged bullying kids into counselling. As for the parent/s or guardian, get your child off social media.
No need getting him to apologise to the public. You are making it worse. I wish him well,” she wrote on her Facebook page.
However, human rights activist Boniface Mwangi said the boy should be taken to an Approved school to “learn how to behave”.
“At the age of 11 years, I was sent to an Approved school. I had run away from home and I was convicted of ‘vagrancy’.
At 14, I was expelled from Approved school. The Consolata boy belongs in Approved (school), he will find teachers and boys who can teach him lessons on how to behave,” he tweeted.
@cyruschege said: #Consolata, This is sad. What happens next? Very unfortunate for a child this young to be thrown into the national limelight for something this shameful that will haunt him for long. He needs professional help.
Another Twitter user @itsjohnmwendah said: “You see it starts with us, we can’t deny the fact that we are living in a digital world where even toddlers have access to phones and the Internet. I think we need to watch out what we post and write.”
The National Computer Incident Response Team established by the Communication Authority (CA) describes cyber-bullying as a situation where a child, pre-teen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child, pre-teen using the internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones.
The implementation section 26 of the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act of 2018, which touches on cyber bullying, is in abeyance after the Bloggers Association of Kenya filed a petition challenging its constitutionality.
The boy’s outburst exposes the thorny issue of access to social media in Kenya.
The Deloitte 2019 Global Consumer Survey: The Kenya cuts shows that the use of smartphones is high and they have become an integral part of our lives across all age groups as demand for entertainment, knowledge and instant connection grows.
According to the report 45 per cent of Kenyans posted videos on social networks in 2018 compared to 30 per cent in 2015.